Scholars argue proposals in Croke Park pose a serious threat to academic freedom

 

OVER 150 academics have backed a campaign against proposals in the Croke Park agreement which they claim will pose a serious threat to academic freedom.

The group includes some of the most distinguished academics in the State, such as retired UCD professor of political science Tom Garvin; UCD professor of equality studies Kathleen Lynch; UCC law professor Steven Hedley; UCD professor of classics Theresa Urbainczyk; and NUI Maynooth professor of Irish literary and cultural studies Luke Gibbons.

These are among the signatories to a letter to The Irish Timeswarning there is “now a serious threat to academic freedom, Irish scholarship and indeed, Irish democracy, arising from the proposed implementation of the Croke Park deal on public service reform”.

The Croke Park deal and the recent Hunt report on higher education signal major changes in academic contracts.

Essentially, these would impose business-style work practices on academic staff and undermine much-cherished academic freedoms, the signatories of the letter argue.

Croke Park and Hunt propose major changes in working conditions, including longer working hours and shorter holidays, tighter management control and performance-related pay.

They also open up the possibility that academics deemed to be substandard by management could be sacked.

The group letter says “the right of permanency and tenure to retirement age is the bedrock on which academic freedom rests. This is now under threat.

“The imposition of managerialist structures and business models is to be greatly intensified.

“These proposals have far wider consequences than worsening of conditions of service, though this is extremely serious and related to the above matters.”

The group, led by former Teachers’ Union of Ireland president Paddy Healy, is holding a public meeting next Saturday afternoon in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel.

Mr Healy is also a candidate in the forthcoming Seanad elections.

Other signatories to the letter include: Prof Jim McKernan of the college of education at the University of East Carolina; Dr Helena Sheehan, professor emeritus of DCU; head of DIT school of food science and environmental health Prof Gary Henehan; UCD professor emeritus of sociology Stephen Mennell; UCC professor of modern English Graham Allen; NUIG professor of archaeology John Waddell, MRIA; TCD professor of computing science and statistics Eileen Drew; Tralee IT lecturer in mathematics Dr Brendan Guilfoyle; and Dr David Millar, research associate at the Educational Research Centre, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.